By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(05/17/2012) - Two time world men's silver medalist (1982 and '83), three-time German champion and two-time European champion (1982 and '83) Norbert Schramm was part of two great rivalries in the sport of figure skating. There were his memorable battles with Scott Hamilton, in which both men's charismatic personalities were on display, as well as the unique dynamic between skaters from East Germany and West Germany that played out in the 1970s and '80s.
"It's funny, because it was more from the officials side that this rivalry was there," Schramm recalled. "These days, when you meet them at meetings for coaches -- like when you renew your license or take some courses for coaches -- it's as if there had never been a border in between. It is very open now. Then, it was more from the officials that they made us not speak to each other and things like that."
When Schramm, 52, was competing, East German skaters tended to be more mechanical in their approach. His exuberant showmanship was quick evidence that he was West German. His creativity was obvious in his love for spins, and he constantly upped the ante on performance skills for Hamilton.
He said competing against Hamilton was intense, but the exhibition tours that followed were "always quite a lot of fun." Schramm has very fond memories of a 1983 tour of the United States produced by Tom Collins.
"It was always a good time together," he said.
What drew fans in were the individuality each skater possessed and their big personalities, things that are at times missing in today's competitors.
"Today, you see things like you never saw before on the ice, like quadruples and other things, but on the other side the sport has developed in a very athletic way," Schramm said. "For the audience, it's getting more and more boring because the programs look more and more similar. The music is more and more similar. The costumes look the same.
"I always had it in my mind that the judges are also spectators," he added. "They're watching you like the audience. My main idea was to skate for the audience and entertain them. That's something I have a feeling is a little bit lost these days."
After ending his competitive days in 1984, Schramm went onto a long and diverse professional career. He did a bit of everything, from competing at Dick Button's renowned world professional championships to touring the world with Holiday on Ice to skating in and staging park shows. He jokes he stopped skating a few times but then started again. His last performance was about three years ago.
"Going out there and doing something, getting something back in the form of applause," he said. "You get a response from the audience -- it was very thrilling."
Since he was a teenager, Schramm has been taking photographs. He took courses in school and even had a darkroom in the basement of his home. People complimented his work, and in time he began to do it professionally, working with various photo agencies.
Last year, Schramm moved to the United States and now is focusing on growing his photography career. He still loves sports photography but is also moving more and more into commercial work. He does head shots and next week he's photographing a wedding.
Although he spent decades of his life based in Bavaria, over the past decade he's experienced very diverse parts of the world. Before moving to New York, he was living in Berlin. Before that he spent time in Quito, Ecuador, and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
"I've been traveling so much in my life, I have no problem at the moment living anywhere," he said.
Schramm has also had considerable success staging and choreographing shows. From 2002-07, he was the artistic director of the ice show at Europark. In 2006, he was the lead coach on a celebrity skating show in Germany called "Dancing on Ice."
He is open to doing some coaching and choreography in the U.S. but said photography is his passion.
"It was always my passion," Schramm said. "I really enjoy it. I want to go more into the artistic side of photography. I have to see how it's going to develop in the next years. I want to work more with people and show their personalities. That's a very interesting task."